Things You Know Now

I had been tagged a while ago by a John Magnabosco here and Jimmy May here to present some bits of wisdom to the n00bs entering into the computer arena. I guess it is a sort of Jedi master to padawan exchange which seems noble enough. So as I sit listening to a Sound Stage perform by Tom Petty on Palladia, I have decided to jot down a few things.

Life is Short , Don’t Settle

Coming into this career don’t think that you ‘have’ to somehow run some mystical type of hazing ritual in order to get where you want to go. If you don’t want to be the Help Desk guy then don’t be the help desk guy. Life is way too short to waste it doing stuff that really sucks. If you want to be ‘the guy’ or ‘the gal’ for programming or SQL stuff then do something to position yourself as that. If you are waiting for someone to come along and realize that you have that potential then 20 years from now you’ll be sitting at the help desk wondering what went wrong.

Your Job Should Be Your Art

This should be self evident. Don’t take a freaking job or pursue a career path because it seems to be something that you could make money at. Obviously, my career path brought me through college as a computational physicist….I still love physics…I just love computer stuff more(of course my thesis work was on neural networks). Sure I could have been a doctor or a lawyer but I just don’t think I would have been as happy in one of those careers as this one. I get up every day and think what am I going to do today that is really going to blow someone’s mind. Believe me when I say….IQ will get you places…but passion will ALWAYS get you further. As such, you need to not just figure out how to make something work…but figure out why it works…..I do this in my talks a lot, show people that ‘Yeah, this Microsoft Gadget A or DoHicky B looks really cool but under the covers it is actually pretty simple.’. Figure out the underpinnings of how the ‘cool’ stuff works and it makes it a lot easier for you to bend that technology to your will….and a lot easier to think outside the box(see below).

Be Flexible

This is my business side kicking in. Don’t just pick one technology to specialize in. If you do then you are a 1 trick pony. Maybe this is easier for me than most people considering that I have been programming since the age of 7. ….yep, that was me TRS-80 Model III …tape cassette…external assembler/disassembler…..TRS-80 Magazine subscription(thanks mom and dad!). So when I come across new technologies it seems pretty elementary to me…I play with it for an hour or two…this is similar to that which is almost like this other thing and before you know it I have another tool in the toolbelt. So if you know more than one job skill and one platform then you will be more flexible….more hire-able….and the one that your bosses will retain in an economic downturn(Hint!Hint!).

Think Outside the Box

If you are looking to really make something of yourself and all you are doing is the same stuff that the next guy is doing then you are going nowhere. I fondly remember back to my Physics days, we would always have a summer session for a group of high school kids. I would always try to compete with Dr. John Swez to come up with the best lab session during the summer. Swez would always do thing like holography and such which would be big draws. So I decided that I was going to have these high school students reproduce a phenomenon known as Sonoluminesence or otherwise known as ‘The Star in the Jar’. Basically, it is using a low energy source(sound waves) to produce a high energy source(light). Pretty cool, but I remember the chair of the department asking me specifically ‘What makes you think that you can even do this let alone with a bunch of high school kids?’ to which I kindly replied ‘Because it hasn’t been done before..’. Which was all true …at the time no one in the Midwest was really doing it. It was all Berkeley stuff. Yet, you should have seen those kids faces when the lights were dimmed about a half a week into it and they could faintly make out a pulsating light in this flask of degssed water.

The technology business is the same….people don’t want to see the same thing with maybe some flashier graphics. They want to be shown something new and intriguing that is going to floor them. So don’t just focus on doing the mundane things but strive to think outside the box in order to see things and opportunities that other people would normally miss out on.


So there you go n00bs. A little bit of wisdom from ol’ AJ to help you along.